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Wednesday 13 November 2019

Couple who killed ‘Westernised’ teenage daughter Shafilea Ahmed jailed for life

The parents of Shafilea Ahmed, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed. Photo: PA
The parents of Shafilea Ahmed, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed. Photo: PA
Shafilea Ahmed.
Shafilea Ahmed. Photo: PA
Shafilea Ahmed

Paul Keaveny and Mike Hornby

A COUPLE who killed their "Westernised" teenage daughter because they believed she brought shame on the family were jailed for life today - nine years after the brutal killing.

Iftikhar Ahmed, 52, and his wife Farzana, 49, were told they would both serve a minimum of 25 years in prison after a jury at Chester Crown Court convicted them of the murder of their 17-year-old daughter Shafilea.

The trial heard that they suffocated the teenager with a plastic bag at the family home in Warrington, Cheshire, in September 2003.

Shafilea's father showed no emotion as he was sentenced but his wife sobbed loudly.

Trial judge Mr Justice Roderick Evans told them: "Your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than the love of your child."

The judge asked them: "What was it that brought you two, her parents, the people who had given her life, to the point of killing her?"

He continued: "You chose to bring up your family in Warrington but although you lived in Warrington your social and cultural attitudes were those of rural Pakistan and it was those which you imposed upon your children.

"Shafilea was a determined, able and ambitious girl who wanted to live a life which was normal in the country and in the town in which you had chosen to live and bring up your children.

"However, you could not tolerate the life that Shafilea wanted to live.

"You wanted your family to live in Pakistan in Warrington.

"Although she went to local schools, you objected to her socialising with girls from what has been referred to as the white community.

"You objected to her wearing western clothes and you objected to her having contact with boys.

"She was being squeezed between two cultures, the culture and way of life that she saw around her and wanted to embrace, and the culture and way of life you wanted to impose on her."

The judge continued: "A desire that she understood and appreciated the cultural heritage from which she came is perfectly understandable, but an expectation that she live in a sealed cultural environment separate from the culture of the country in which she lived was unrealistic, destructive and cruel.

"The conflict between you and her increased in the last year of her life and you tried to impose your cultural values and attitudes on her by intimidation, bullying and a use of physical violence.

"She tried to escape and she was determined to do so because she knew what lay in store for her at your hands - being taken to Pakistan to be 'sorted out', i.e. having her Westernised ideas removed - and to be married off."

Mr Justice Evans then spoke about the night of the murder.

He said: "On the evening of 11th September 2003 you berated her for her behaviour and in temper and frustration you two suffocated her. It was you, Farzana Ahmed, who said to your husband: 'Finish it here'.

"While I accept that there was no pre-existing plan to kill Shafilea that night, that remark, together with the evidence relating to whether or not Shafilea survived the drinking of bleach, drives me to the conclusion that you two had previously discussed the way that you might ultimately resolve the problem which Shafilea presented for you.

"Your problem was that in what you referred to as your 'community', Shafilea's conduct was bringing shame upon you and your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than your love of your child.

"In order to rid yourselves of that problem, you killed Shafilea by suffocating her in the presence of your other four children."

The judge said: "I express no concluded view on whether Junyad (their son) played any part in the killing of his sister.

"But I have no doubt that, as the result of the distorted upbringing and values to which you subjected him, he told his surviving sisters within minutes of them seeing Shafilea murdered by you that Shafilea deserved it.

"Thereafter, you got rid of her body by dumping it or having it dumped in undergrowth on a riverbank in Cumbria and you told your children what to tell anybody who asked about the disappearance of Shafilea.

"You killed one daughter, but you have blighted the lives of your remaining children.

"Alesha escaped but she is unlikely to be able to avoid the legacy of her upbringing.

"Mevish, after a period of trying to live independently, was recaptured and brought home, and has since become compliant with your wishes.

"She came to court and was placed in the sad position of having to deny her own words in order to try to help the parents whom she, and no doubt all your surviving children, still care for."

He added: "As to Junyad, he remains supportive, especially of you Iftikhar Ahmed.

"Whether that is simply out of filial affection or the result of the warped values you instilled in him is impossible to tell.

"There is only one sentence that I can impose upon you and that is a sentence of imprisonment for life."

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